Fortunately for the jazz community at large, Blue Note has done a great service to its catalog by stepping up its reissues over the past five years or so. A stream of notable items continues to come our way with six new titles available as budget-priced discs and with a focus on the soulful B-3 type fare that marked the label's late '60s output. All discs also feature new 24-bit remastering.
Arguably the best of the lot and one of the baddest organ groove records ever cut, Lou Donaldson's MIDNIGHT CREEPER (Blue Note 24549) also happens to be the smash follow-up to it's equally funky brother, ALLIGATOR BOOGALOO. The line-up for this 1968 classic includes trumpeter Blue Mitchell, guitarist George Benson, organist Lonnie Smith, and drummer Idris Muhammad, with an equally star-studded set of five originals to provide musical nourishment. Sure, you've got the catchy (and some might say calculated) title track that was destined to get the airplay, but you'll also find one of Donaldson's most substantial ballad performances on the gently swaying "Elizabeth" and Lonnie Smith's "Bag of Jewels" gives everyone's bop chops a chance to shine as well. Too long unavailable, this set begs to be on your short list of needed purchases.
Getting his start in an earlier edition of Lou Donaldson's band, organist "Big" John Patton was and still is one of the most refined organists to ever get his hands on a Hammond B-3. He might not have the consummate technique of, let's say, Larry Young, but he continues to be every bit as valuable in terms of providing the organ a new voice apart from the Jimmy Smith clichés so prevalent still to this day. For Patton's 1963 Blue Note debut, ALONG CAME JOHN (Blue Note 31915), he could have hardly been in better company, with guitarist Grant Green and drummer Ben Dixon mixing it up behind the twin tenors of Fred Jackson and Harold Vick. Except for the standard "I'll Never Be Free," all the tunes have been penned by either Patton or Dixon and each one develops an inimitable mood and groove of its own. Jackson and Vick offer distinct and contrasting styles, the former the more rambunctious of the pair (maybe that's why Jackson's own Blue Note carries the title HOOTIN' & TOOTIN').
Blue Note sure had a fine stable of organists on hand during the '60s and even with Jimmy Smith himself at the head of the pack, each artist seemed to develop their own style separate and apart from the prevailing influences. This is in direct contrast with the more homogenized sounds coming from other labels at the time such as Prestige. Freddie Roach is another case in point, with a very pianistic style that was more about finesse and musicality than bombast. His 1963 date, GOOD MOVE! (Blue Note 24551), happens to be the first American reissue of any of his five Blue Note titles, although all of them have been available in Japan for some time now. With a stylish mix of bop and blues on hand, Blue Mitchell and Hank Mobley sit in for a few and the results are quite outstanding and hand-made for those with a taste for something a bit out of the ordinary. And by the way, pick up on a recent UK reissue of Roach's two Prestige sides, THE SOUL BOOK and MOCHA MOTION for further sustenance.
Moving on to the master himself, we find Blue Note dipping into some of the final Jimmy Smith recordings to come from the label before Smith ended up jumping ship to Verve Records to work with producer Creed Taylor. Recorded in 1963, BUCKET! (Blue Note 24550) was one of several records that would not see release until the latter part of the decade, set up to compete with Smith's new releases coming from Verve at the time. You've got nothing really fancy here, just a "down home" meeting between Smith and his long-time companions, guitarist Quentin Warren and drummer Donald Bailey. The choice of material is fairly conventional too, albeit with a few bluesy Smith originals and a down and dirty take on "John Brown's Body" (a.k.a. "Battle Hymn of the Republic"). Still, Rudy Van Gelder's '60s engineering puts the Hammond in a more refined light than was previously possible just a few years prior.
Not so much funk-oriented as soulful (no organ is present on this one), Stanley Turrentine's 1966 set, ROUGH 'N' TUMBLE (Blue Note 24552), would be the first of several late '60s projects to find the intrepid tenor man in front of a large ensemble exploring some of the day's more popular hits and usually with the charts being provided by the gifted Duke Pearson. It's an unadulterated winner that manages to get on your good side after just the first few choruses of "And Satisfy." Sam Cooke's "Shake" also gets done up right and Anthony Newley's "Feeling Good" receives a definitive performance that swings and sways with just the right intensity. Throw in some fine solo spots for Pepper Adams, McCoy Tyner, Blue Mitchell, and Grant Green and you've got a Turrentine classic whose time has finally come.
inally, you won't want to miss the second installment of previously unissued performances from Gene Harris and the Three Sounds' stay at California's 'It Club' in March of 1970. LIVE AT THE 'IT CLUB'- VOLUME 2 (Blue Note 23997) contains nine more trinkets from a group that was about to take its last breath before being waterlogged by the commercial indulgences that marked the seventies. At this point, bassist Henry Franklin had replaced mainstay Andy Simpkins and Carl Burnett was part of a short list of drummers to fill in after founding member Bill Dowdy broke rank. While nothing all that ground breaking occurs, Harris' way with the blues still dominates. He knows how to work a phrase and it's his contagious get-up-and-go that propels even such unlikely vehicles as "Eleanor Rigby" and "Come Together." Four finger-snapping originals by producer Monk Higgins are worth the price of admission alone and fans of this group will certainly want to add this one to their comprehensive collection.